Essay about on the waterfront

Submitted By luciferxo69
Words: 1680
Pages: 7

My Practice Essay


‘It is Terry’s anger that leads him to testify against Johnny Friendly, not his newly awakened conscience.’ Discuss


While Terry’s conscience has indeed been ‘awakened’ by the deaths of Joey Doyle and Kayo Dugan, and the influence of key figures such as Edie, Father Barry, Charley & the Golden Warriors, it is not the only factor that convinces him to testify against Johnny Friendly. Similarly, it is not merely the death of his brother Charley that angers him and compels him to testify either; it is a combination of factors that ultimately holds sway. There is no doubt that Terry is angered by Charley’s death and seeks ‘revenge’ on Friendly, but he is also angered by his perception of himself as a ‘bum’. Furthermore, Edie & Father Barry are influential in Terry’s moral education, alerting him to a sense of collective conscience (the Roman-Catholic ‘love for one’s fellow man’ as well as the brotherhood of longshoremen) as opposed to his individual desire to ‘be somebody’. When Friendly accuses Terry of the worst sin, ‘rattin’ on us’, Terry is finally able to articulate that he had been guilty of ‘rattin’ on himself all these years’, indicating that he now wants to be truthful with and to himself. Thus, Terry’s decision to testify against Friendly begins with his moral indecision regarding the death of his collective brothers and their treatment by Friendly’s gang, is fuelled by his newly-awakened conscience and his brother’s murder, and only made possible when Terry has finally resolved the moral dilemmas that plague his conscience.

Right from the opening scenes of the film, Terry is portrayed as someone who is not only different (his attire separates him from Friendly and his gang) but someone whose conscience is troubled. Terry’s pained expressions, his constant visits to the rooftop (for clarity), his checkered jacked (representing a checkered past as well as the grey area that resides amongst black and white moral matters) and the scar above his eye (symbolizing emotional scarring) reflect his incomprehension as to why Joey Doyle was indeed killed and not just ‘leant on’. In fact, Joey’s death marks the beginning of Terry’s plagued conscience. Terry is not only upset that Joey has been killed rather than roughed up, he is also concerned about the role he unwittingly played in Joey’s death. Crucially, it is Joey’s sister, Edie, who ‘leans on’ Terry and reminds him to do what is right according to his conscience. Kazan depicts Edie as a conservative dresser; her naivety, her blonde hair (which appears white on the monochrome screen) and the teacher training she has undertaken in a nunnery all serve to reinforce Edie’s role in Terry’s life as an angelic force concerned with his moral education. This message is further reinforced by Father Barry, who, although initially reluctant to hear Terry’s confession, encourages him to ‘tell it to her straight – no curves.’

Father Barry alerts Terry to a sense of brotherhood undermined by Friendly and his gang and articulates for the inarticulate Terry the ‘crucifixion’ others such as Kayo Dugan have undergone for him, thus clarifying and resolving his moral dilemma. At this point, Terry’s affiliation with Father Barry and the other ‘canaries’ is clearly evident as he punches Truck, whose disparaging remarks and threatening behaviour now earmark him as the enemy, and Edie looks longingly at him while stroking her brother’s jacket – the same jacket seemingly imbued with the power to convince those who wear it to speak out. Indeed, Father Barry’s sermon delivered in the ‘hole’ of the ship (as opposed to the cushy work undertaken in the ‘loft’) is a turning point in Terry’s life. Religious imagery abounds in this scene, not only in Father Barry’s language, but in the way he is ‘stoned’ with various items (reminiscent of Christ on the cross, further echoing his message about being crucified) and in the way he is ‘raised up’ on the ship’s